In February, 2011, Centro del Obrero Fronterizo was awarded one of 14 FY 2010 Hunger-Free Communities Grants. Grantee projects started on March 15, 2011, and even after only two short months our grantees are noting encouraging results. Centro del Obrero Fronterizo provided this background and update in a recent report:
“The Chamizal Neighborhood in El Paso, Texas, is one of the most impoverished in the nation, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. Dozens of empty warehouses dot the landscape, a testament to the decline of a garment industry that once flourished here, employing thousands of Mexican immigrant women. When the industry left the area in search of cheaper labor, thousands of women were left unemployed. In 1981, displaced female garment workers established La Mujer Obrera in hopes of broadening economic and educational opportunities by creating jobs based on community needs.
Thirty years later, the results of our work include a restaurant, day care center, apartment complex, an adult bilingual education center, microenterprise training, and Mercado Mayapán, a traditional Mexican market with fresh produce, grains, meats, and tortillas, as well as a cultural plaza, museum, and fair-trade artisan marketplace.
We believe that regardless of race, class, or language barriers, we all have a right to healthy, affordable, and culturally acceptable foods, an understanding of where those foods come from, and knowledge about nutrition and health in order to make informed choices. We feel fortunate that Food and Nutrition Service has recognized our efforts by awarding us one of only four Hunger-Free Communities Grants in the implementation category.
We have hit the ground running. Within the first two weeks of receiving the grant, we trained our staff in basic nutrition highlighting the history and assets of the traditional Mesoamerican diet as well as history of the industrial food system and the importance of a sustainable local food system. We also began to connect with local farmers in order to provide a space for them to sell directly to our community. The response has been so positive that we are now planning to establish a Farmers’ Market this summer.
Our traditional marketplace will also serve as an experiential classroom where people will experience the taste and aromas of healthful foods, sample new recipes, participate in cooking workshops, and be exposed to ongoing information about grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits as part of seasonal and permanent displays.
Community-run markets are a legacy of our ancestors. The market place is the heart of the community where our neighbors can gather, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy access to fresh produce, healthy meals, and the cultural arts. Mercado Mayapán is keeping the tradition alive with the help of USDA Food and Nutrition Service.”